Evolution and revolution: How Manchester United and Manchester City have become this season's football superpowers
The new football season may still be in its infancy but there is little doubt as to which two English clubs have hit the ground running.
Here, The Boot Room takes a look at the footballing evolution and revolution being facilitated by Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola respectively as the two Manchester clubs make the early headway in the race for domestic and European silverware.
Ruthless, powerful and dangerous – Mourinho’s Manchester United evolution
When Jose Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford supporters knew exactly what they would get.
The Portuguese maestro is perceived by many onlookers in the football world to arrogant and confrontational, indeed some of his antics in the past certainly demonstrate that he has a dark side, and yet wherever he lays his hat trophies are guaranteed to follow. His first year at Old Trafford was a season of transition which resulted in a relatively disappointing league campaign but culminated in domestic and European cup success. However, United have hit the ground running this season and look more ruthless, powerful and dangerous than ever.
If history is anything to go by, then when a Mourinho team starts to blow away teams with ease then it is time for his rivals to be concerned.
United have won nine out of their last 10 games in all competitions, scoring four goals in six of those contests and keeping seven clean sheets. They have nonchalantly swatted away the opposition and only Stoke City have been able to disrupt their momentum.
Last season Mourinho’s side were crippled by fifteen drawn games, ten of which were at Old Trafford, and their inability to see off so-called lesser opposition ultimately meant that United finished outside the top four. However, they have had no such issues this time around.
If you hold out for an hour against Mourinho’s new-look United then they will just grind you down until you crumble. If you try and play on the front foot then they will just counter attack with devastating effect.
The goals are scored by Romelu Lukaka, who has already netted 11 times since joining from Everton in the summer, and provided by the creative talents of Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the rejuvenated Anthony Martial and the vastly improved Marcus Rashford. Meanwhile, Nemanja Matic, who was a surprise arrival from title rivals Chelsea, has added a new dynamic to the midfield with his power, physical presence and steel making the side more defensively solid.
It is undoubtedly still early in the campaign and there will certainly be sterner tests that Mourinho and United must overcome in the coming months, starting with a trip to Anfield on October 14th. However, the team looks more powerful, imposing and ruthless than ever before – the runaway United train will take some stopping.
One year to learn, one year to win – Guardiola’s football revolution continues
The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City last summer coincided with a new sense of expectancy.
The Spaniard is widely perceived as one of, if not the, best managers in modern football at present following trophy-laden spells with Bayern Munich and Barcelona and there are few coaches in the past decade that have influenced the the very fabric of game in the way that he has. City were appointing a man who was intelligent, revolutionary and a serial winner – there were few that doubted that Guardiola, backed with City’s considered financial power, would take the club onto the next level.
However, his debut season in English football was what can only be described as a severe learning curve. Guardiola opted to provide the squad that he inherited with the opportunity to claim a place in his footballing revolution but, despite ten consecutive victories across all competitions to kick off the season, City ended the campaign without a trophy.
In the summer Guardiola has moved swiftly to correct the issues that undermined the previous campaign. He has invested heavily in new personnel but the squad now looks more balanced, enthralling and exciting than ever before. Guardiola appears to have corrected the goalkeeping problem by bringing in Ederson, although many would argue that it was a problem of his own making having opted to cast aside Joe Hart, whilst the likes of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy have added real quality to the defensive unit. At the other end of the pitch the attacking firepower at City’s disposal is frightening, whilst the fledgling talents of John Stones and Raheem Sterling have continued to improve and develop.
City have kicked off the new campaign with eight wins from their opening nine games in all competitions. In their last seven games alone they have scored a total of 25 goals whilst keeping seven clean sheets – a definitive statement to their rivals that Guardiola has had one year to learn, now he is ready to claim silverware.
At their best, City slice through opponents with glorious ease and when they hit top gear they score almost at will. However, Guardiola has almost instilled a new winning mentality in his squad, assumingly having learnt from his debut season in English football that there are no so-called ‘easy’ games, and the team have already demonstrated that they can win ugly and grind out results.
Against Bournemouth they netted a last minute winner when it appeared that they were set to drop vital points early in the campaign. Even against West Bromwish Albion (in the Carabao Cup) and Shakhtar Donetsk (in the Champions League), when the team were not playing fluently and were far from being at their best, City still found a way to win. There is a new found resilience and air of determination around the Etihad Stadium that suggests that another season without winning a trophy is unacceptable.
Guardiola’s footballing revolution at City appears to be in full flow. After having one year to learn, the forthcoming twelve months appear to be earmarked for one thing – winning.